Fundamental questions about exams and testing in secondary education

How future-proof is the Dutch central exam secondary education? There are good arguments for maintaining the current exam. At the same time, critics are urging adjustments.

Commissioned by the National Board for Educational Research, five researchers (Jaap Scheerens, Oberon / University of Twente; Arnold Brouwer, RCEC; Piet Sanders, RCEC; Bernard Veldkamp, RCEC / University of Twente; Anne Luc van der Vegt, Oberon) have carried out a literature study into the arguments for and against the current exam.

The graduation of secondary education in the Netherlands already has a fairly long tradition, dating back to the nineteenth century. In the sixties and seventies it took on its present form, with school exams (SE) and central exams (CE) taking equal weight. Recent external evaluations by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) have rated the Dutch education evaluation system in very positive terms. However, there is also criticism of ‘a narrow view of the quality of education’ and of the negative consequences of tests and exams.

In this literature study, the researchers take as their starting point, among other things, the social functions of education. A frequently used three-way division is that in 1) qualification, 2) socialisation and 3) personality development.

On the basis of this exploratory study, the researchers argue that a radical change in the programme of examinations and final tests should be seen as a system review. This should therefore be evidence-based. The researchers therefore decide, with the contours of a new policy-oriented research programme, to provide a more detailed evidence base for the policy in a number of areas.

On the website of the central government you can read the Dutch report Fundamental questions about exams and testing by Jaap Scheerens and others.

See also the Dutch letter from the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Mr. A. Slob, to the House of Representatives of the Netherlands.